Morgantown area native and WVU alumna Blanche Lazzell received a grant in the 1930s from the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a precursor of the Works Progress Administration, to create a mural featuring scenes of Morgantown. It hung in a courtroom in the Monongalia County Courthouse for many years.
Later transferred to West Virginia University, Lazzell’s mural—completed in 1934 and titled “Justice”—is now a part of the opening exhibition of the new Art Museum of WVU and will be the subject of the next “Art Up Close!” event at the museum.
The public is invited to come out and view the mural up close in the upper gallery of the Art Museum on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 5:30 p.m. WVU Art History Professor Bernie Schultz and Art Museum Curator Robert Bridges will talk about the mural’s significance and the conditions under which Lazzell created it during the Great Depression.
The program will be followed by a question-and-answer session and light refreshments will be served in the Museum Education Center Grand Hall, adjacent to the museum.
The Art Museum of WVU holds the largest public collection of the work of Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956), a pioneering painter and printmaker who played a significant role in shaping abstract art in America. Lazzell was born in Maidsville, near Morgantown, and graduated from WVU in 1905 with a degree in fine arts. She went on to study in New York and Paris with notable artists of her day. Her reputation is based on her role in the development of the Provincetown white-line woodblock print and on the prints and paintings she made using the abstract vocabulary of cubism.
In the early 1930s Lazzell was creating some highly regarded abstracted still-life prints. However, the American art scene of the thirties was more conservative and, due to high demand by the Works Project Administration officials for Lazzell’s white-line woodblock prints, she spent much of her time from 1934 to 1939 creating art for the Federal Art Projects. The imagery captured popular landscapes from her native West Virginia and around her studio in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
In the late 1930s, she studied with German-born modernist Hans Hofmann and returned to abstraction, joining Hofmann’s Provincetown drawing class and later attending his New York school.
The Lazzell works in the WVU Art Collection span her entire career and include paintings, prints, decorative items, and drawings that come largely from Lazzell’s bequest to the University.
When Lazzell’s mural of Morgantown was acquired by the museum, it was darkened by a layer coal soot and had to be sent away to art conservators to be cleaned. The mural is approximately 8 feet high and 12.5 feet wide. Lazzell took 14 weeks to complete it. The Art Museum also has all of Lazzell’s preliminary drawings for the mural.
Art Up Close! events are held several times each year and present WVU faculty from various disciplines discussing a single work of art from the perspectives of their disciplines. Audience members have the opportunity to view the actual works of art at the programs.
Art Up Close! is co-sponsored by the Art Museum of WVU and the Friends of the Museum, a membership group for people who enjoy the arts and social, educational and cultural activities revolving around art.
For more information about the program on Oct. 20, contact the Art Museum of WVU at (304) 292-4359.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, Art Museum of WVU
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